Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

This is the last day of 2010, and tomorrow Enjoy Food & Travel is entering its sixth year. I and my co-writers would like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year.

Photo: Slumbering
What started as a food and travel diary in 2006, has now become much, much more. In 2010 I and my fellow co-writer have written close to 340 stories, that is more or less one story per day. In addition to this there has been made a large number of maps of the different destinations we have visited. 

I 2010 we had 41 000 visitors from 160 countries world wide. Half of the visitors come from the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom, but I am intrigued to have readers in countries as Iran, Myanmar, Mongolia and Ecuador as well. My readers accessed our stories close to 60 000 times. In addition to this close to 80 people subscribe to my pages. 

The biggest challenge is the large backlog of stories waiting to be published. As I am working full time as Head of Information in a large cancer research facility, writing the stories takes place after work and in weekends.

And to the stories from destinations I have visited, more stories come from new places I am traveling to. In 2011 I have plans to visit some places I have already been, and a few very intriguing new destinations. Here is what may come in 2011.

Coming up in 2011

January 2011: Marrakech, Morocco:
I am revisiting this ancient North African destination in the first month of the new year, leaving snow and ice behind, seeking sun and temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. This time I will stay in a charming guest house in the Medina, within the old city walls 
February 2011:  Two day cruise Oslo - Kiel, Germany: In February I might take a short two day break and travel to Germany. The Color Magic and its sister ship Color Fantasy are the worlds largest and second largest cruise ferry, taking up to 2700 passengers and 550 cars in ordinary traffic. I and my sister are booking tickets in order to have a good time on board and doing some duty free shopping.

April/May 2011: New York, N.Y.:

I may travel to the city that never sleeps in April/May 2010 to spend time with family exploring what Manhattan has to offer.  

June 2011: Barcelona and Sitges, Spain:

Once again we'll take a trip to Spain to indulge the sun, sand and sea, and eat tapas to we drop.

October 2011: Lima, Cuzco, and Macchu Picchu - Peru:

A real adventure.  As my nephew will work on the construction of a electric power plant in 2011 and 2012, I will certainly take the opportunity to spend two weeks in Lima and take excursions to Cuzco, the Inca capital and Macchu Picchu - the mysterious city far up in the Andes.

November 2011: Brussels, Belgium:

Our annual trip to the Belgian capital, sipping delicious Belgian beer and stocking up on good food and chocolate for Christmas.

December 2011:  Christmas surprise:
Every second year I celebrate Christmas abroad. As this is one year ahead of time, more planning is necessary before we make up our mind. I would love to go to Egypt or maybe Dubai, but maybe another intriguing destination gets our attention. I'll keep you posted!      

    Thursday, December 30, 2010

    Rating Norwegian Air Shuttle flight Oslo-Evenes-Oslo, December 2010

    Photo: Arsenikk
    I waited too long before booking my air fare for Christmas. I ended up paying full fare one way and reduced fare on return. The Norwegian Air Shuttle from Oslo to Harstad Narvik Airport was expensive and what was offered did not reflect that expensive air fare. 
    Itinerary
    • DY6004 Departure December 22nd 2010, 12:40 PM from Oslo Airport, Gardermoen. Arrival:  Harstad/Narvik Airport Evenes 2:20 PM 
    • DY227 Departure December 26th 2010, 2:45 PM from Harstad/Narvik Airport, Evenes. Arrival Oslo Airport, Gardermoen 4:25 PM 
    Check-in: BBBBB

    Checked in one suitcase on electronic self service. It went smooth both ways. Then directly to gate.

    Departure: BBBB

    Departure on time both to Harstad/Narvik, and slightly ahead of schedule on return flight. 

    Hospitality: BBBB


    Nice efficient staff, managing the vessel with efficiency.

    Service: BBBB

    Good overall service. Serving started 15-30 minutes after the fasten seat belt sign had been switched off both ways.

    Complementary: N/A


    Nor food nor drinks included in the price. Reasonably priced food and beverage available for sale.

    Comfort: BBBB

    Comfortable leg room in front of seat and width of seat, whether you are economy or full price passenger. Knees not touching pouch in the seat ahead.

    Flying time: BBBB

    Flying time within cockpit's estimate both ways.

    Arrival: BBBB

    Arrival a little before schedule on way back.

    Duty free goods: N/A

    Domestic flight. No duty free goods offered.

    Check out: BBB+ 

    Short waiting time for luggage at Harstad Narvik Airport. On return flight it took close to 45 minutes to get our suitcase. This is not the first time Røros Flyservice, the handling agent for Norwegian Air Shuttle has not being doing their job. There were no information until I went to its service counter to ask what happened to our luggage. I suspect they were under staffed. Norwegian should consider changing to another handling agent.   

    Price: BBBB

    Price: 4048 NOK (€ 518,15 / $ 686,43). Expensive for a round-trip ticket,  as one trip was a fully priced ticket. This should have included food and drink. This price is high compared to experienced travel value.
    I would have found cheaper tickets available if I had booked early.

    Rating the Norwegian Air Shuttle experience: BBBB (4,05 points)

    High price for what was offered at this flight. Good punctuality. Complementary food or drink should have been included when paying maximum fare. Terrible handling service in Oslo with long waiting time and no information.

    More airline ratings on Enjoy Food & Travel 
    Latest stories on Norwegian Air Shuttle 

    Tuesday, December 28, 2010

    COMING: Riad Libiti Bito, Marrakech



    When revisiting Marrakech, I ended up wondering where to stay on my second visit. The alternatives were, once again to book a resort outside the city, or to choose a classic Riad or guesthouse in the Medina. I and my friends used a long time going through websites, booking sites and tripadvisor to make up our minds, but when we finally booked a room at Libiti Bito there were no doubt in our minds.

    Last year I had a brilliant stay at Eden Andalou Hotel & Resort 15 km (10 miles) outside the city. This exquisite resort offered both the convenience of staying outside the city as well as full access to Marrakech through an excellent free limo-service.

    This time I leaned towards going back to this fantastic hotel, but I was equally tempted by a stay at one of the legendary Riads found in the old city centre.We started to look through several sites in quest for the ultimate riad.

    There are a few things to consider when booking hotels in Marrakech. The most important is location. If you book a riad, there will be no problem, as most are located within the walls of the Medina and just a short walk away from everything. As we booked last year Eden Andalou Hotel was given a wrong location on google maps and we thought we were booking a hotel in the city. Although staying at this hotel ended as a success, you must consult other sites to double check the location.

    Another thing that you may have to consider is hygiene. As we looked through tripadvisor, double checking our alternatives, hygienic conditions were one of the critical points many remarked on. Tripadvisor is a great site in this respect as you may get confirmation from other guests that you have made the right choice or take the warning signs. 

    Back to Libitobito. There is no end of tempting offers from different riads, with tempting photos. I think it was my friend Øyvind that found the Libiti Bito, and sent a link. The reviews were stunning. Ranked as number 50 out of 708 guest houses it was ranked as excellent from all 16 guests that had stayed there. It has just 7 spacious suites, but it has a restaurant, cocktail bar, and small swimming pool, The best thing was the price. Paying 69 Euros per night I could believe my own luck - I can indulge in luxury in my own personal suite for a whole week.

    It is located close to the Almoravid Quobba, Ben Youssef Mosque and Marrakech Museum, a short walk away from the Djemaa el Fna.

    We finally booked and September 21st we got a mail from our hosts. It said:
    Thank you for your reservation via Booking.com.
    For your comfort, from 5 nights and more we are offering the return transfer airport/riad. In order to beneficiate of this service, could you please provide us with your arrival time as your flight number. Our chauffeur will be at the airport to welcome you with a sign “Riad Libitibito”.

    Do not hesitate to contact us for any queries.
    So for all of you - if you book more than 5 nights, you get free transportation to and from the airport as well.

    Well my stay is just weeks away. I will keep you posted and provide you with information if Riad Libiti Bito is worth the price. Having read what other guests have written, I am convinced it is.


    View Marrakech on Enjoy Food & Travel 2010-2011 in a larger map

    More stories from Marrakech:  

    Göta Coldins Ordenshus, Göteborg

    As we walked through Central Göteborg, I found this house. It belongs to an old secret order of seafarers said to date back to Medieval times, and now only found in Sweden and Finland.

    The Coldin Order was introduced to Sweden in 1757 by Baron Carl Biörnberg that during his friendship with the French captain Francois Thurot and inspired by him founded the first lodge in Sweden.

    The baron was acknowledged by the French leaders of the order,  the dukes de Noailles and de Belle-Isle to be the leader of the Swedish lodge. The famous Swedish troubadour Carl Michael Bellman is said to having been a member of the Coldin Order and attended the lodge in Stockholm. 

    Today the members of the Coldin order in Sweden in  are organized three lodges. There are also lodges found in Finland.

    The  Coldin order has disappeared in the rest of Europe.

    Stories on similar subjects on Enjoy Food & Travel   
    See location of Göta Coldin Ordenshus on this map


    View Gothenburg on Enjoy Food & Travel 2009-2010 in a larger map

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    Long roast duck - a pre Christmas ritual

    Saturday December 11th was the 2011 Day of the Duck, an annual Christmas tradition. The occasion of this hearty meal is a tradition I and some friends started 5 years ago. The pre-Christmas viewing of Tante Pose, a film from 1940 that we watched during our childhood.

    We had one TV channel as kids, and we were allowed access to Donald Duck once a year, the Christmas edition of Donald Duck and his friends. Another tradition is the viewing of Tante Pose an old Norwegian film classic from the year 1940. For most of us 30-40 something it is forever connected to our best Christmas memories.

    I always prepare duck as a gesture to my friend Thomas. His mother is Danish and Danes serve duck, caramelized potatoes, pickled red cabbage and gravy as their main Christmas dinner.

    I managed to get hold of a frozen 2,5 kilo / 5+ lb Hungarian barbary duck Thursday, allowed it to thaw overnight before marinating it in Montreal Chicken seasoning, oliver oil, extra lime and garlic worked together in a paste. I long roasted it for 6 hours at 100 C / 215 F, and this year I used a roasting bag. I added a large package of shallots to the bird during roasting and amandine potatoes the last 90 minutes. The last 30 minutes I poured out the juices and allowed the duck, potatoes and shallots to roast in a medium hot oven to get that delicious crispy duck experience. 

    The traditional stuffing
    was prepared with the rest of the Shropshire Spice Company stuffing used at Thanksgiving, apples, onions, and apple cider. I substituted the bacon with Spanish chorizo sausage, a brilliant idea.

    I have gone through the procedure earlier so for the recipes I will refer to my previous years. Personally I am very pleased by the way I have learned to prepare duck. Long roasting works extremely well allowing the meat to be succulent and mouthwateringly tender.  

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    COMING DECEMBER 2010: Vesterålen, Norway


    View Northern Norway On Enjoy Food & Travel in a larger map

    I spent this Christmas with my brother and his family in Vesterålen, Norway. Vesterålen is located beyond the Polar Circle in Nordland county. This is, in December and January, the land of the Polar night, as the sun never rise over the horizon.

    The polar night is a truly magic experience. During a few hours dusk from 10 AM to 2 PM you the the glow of the ever present sun appear over snow capped mountains rising from the sea up to 1500 meters (4500 ft). The rest is night as known elsewhere in the world.

    During Christmas we experienced freezing temperatures in Oslo, reaching low of -20C (-5F), but as I landed at Evenes Airport December 22nd it was just -5 degrees Celsius (or 23F). The overall temperature was much higher than in the south of the country, as this archipelago is exposed to the mild waters of the Golf stream. During Christmas the temperatures rose above freezing, unexpected considering its location far north, closer to the Polar areas.

    It was, all in all, a traditional Christmas celebration. My brother and sister-in-law prepared a delicious  traditional pork rib for Christmas Eve, and there were gifts in abundance. I will return to this meal and more in coming stories here on Enjoy Food & Travel.

    More stories from previous trips to Vesterålen